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A Lesson from Wrestling: Never Forget Your Roots

There’s a major star for the WWE, a main event level former world champion, who still gets tickets for at least one promoter who helped him back in the day. He did not work for this promoter very long, but the wrestler has never forgotten the hand up the promoter gave him. He’s not the only one on the main roster who does this, and the local promoter is not the only one receiving a never-ending stream of love and appreciation for what he once did for a star on the rise.

Professional wrestlers do not forget where they came from. They honor their roots every chance they get. They show their gratitude to the men and women who mentored them in words and deeds. They pay it forward as much as they can to other students who came from the same place. They pay homage to the fans, the promoters, the fellow wrestlers, the refs, everyone who helped them along the way.

I used to dabble in the independent film scene. Like the independent wrestling scene, it’s a world filled with dreamers who hope to make it to the big time. The same gratitude that is extended by professional wrestlers toward their past does not always happen in the world of film. The wise ones do, like the former students of Lloyd Kaufman and Roger Corman, but I’ve seen others not only turn their backs on the actors, producers, and directors who once supported them, but actively try to suppress films they now deem as beneath them.

Everyone starts somewhere. Whatever profession you’re in, you started some place. We all have bad matches, bad films, things we know weren’t our best. But suppressing the work of others to satisfy your ego is ungrateful and wrong.

When he was at the height of his run in the WWE, a fan asked CM Punk where he thought Wrestlemania should be. He replied, “The warehouse in Charlestown, Indiana,” the building where he once wrestled Chris Hero for 93 minutes in front of a hardcore-hungry local crowd. That is paying respect. That is remembering who you are and where you came from.

I don’t care what opportunity lies ahead in your career. There’s no excuse for stepping on the people who were there for you before your “big break.” Remember the people who believed in you when no one else did. Remember those who were there to help you, to give you a role when no one else would, to give you an opportunity to do what you wanted to do. Be grateful. Be humble. And be willing to pass it on.